Thoughts on Bradish, Rodriguez and Stewart

The Triple-A Norfolk Tides are starting Grayson Rodriguez tonight against the Durham Bulls. Kyle Bradish is listed two nights later.

The Orioles are starting Jordan Lyles today in Oakland. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann’s next turn is Friday night in Anaheim.

It’s virtually impossible to separate the two rotations.

The Orioles seemed unsure about their fifth starter before confirming Spenser Watkins. They’ve lost ace John Means for at least a significant portion of the season, and quite possibly the remainder of it.

Chris Ellis had his contract selected yesterday from Norfolk and he made last night’s start in Oakland. Watkins seems to have earned a third turn after allowing only one run and two hits Monday night over five innings. Look for him in Anaheim.

Don’t look for Rodriguez in Baltimore anytime soon. Or in any major league city. Tonight is his third career start in Triple-A. He’s 22, didn’t pitch in 2020 because the minor league season was canceled, and began last summer in high A ball.

Each disappointment that’s felt when the Orioles bypass him is self-inflicted. There’s no reason to believe that he’s joining them on the road trip or anytime soon. In 2022, yes. It could happen in the first half. But not the first month.

Similar caution is used with Bradish, who stayed back in Sarasota to build more innings before reporting to the Tides.

Their cases aren’t exactly the same, however, and fan impatience is more understandable to me.

Bradish will be making his 22nd start and 24th appearance in a Triple-A game. He’s 25 – we share the same birthday, but I digress – he impressed in spring training with scoreless and fearless outings against the Yankees and Phillies.

Not stretched out enough? Who is? Going five innings is viewed now as a quality start.

Some other teams might have brought him along for opening day. The Orioles want to reduce the risk of him failing and having to go back down. He averaged 4.1 walks per nine innings last season in 21 games with Norfolk, an area that had to improve. And maybe there’s a service time consideration.

It’s like Fight Club. The first rule …

I’m more of a proponent of promoting Bradish than some others in the media, despite the reasons that I cited against it. But I also know that his time is coming fast.

Prospects will be filtered onto the roster. They aren’t arriving on the same bus. Bradish should lead them, whenever it happens.

In the meantime, he’s facing the Bulls Friday night. After allowing one run and four hits in nine innings, with two walks and nine strikeouts.

After more people are screaming for him to join the Orioles.

* Yesterday’s news that outfielder DJ Stewart was designated for assignment came as a bit of a surprise to me. I thought a few relievers were more vulnerable. But there were some signs.

The Orioles optioned Stewart instead of Ryan McKenna after the opening series. McKenna has been the shuttle guy, his superior defense and speed unable to keep him on the roster.

A handy explanation centered on Stewart’s bruised hand in spring training. He needed more at-bats. Easier to get them in Triple-A. But it was an interesting decision nonetheless.

Stewart clearly was running out of chances. Injuries were a problem. He didn’t hit consistently when he was healthy. His defense was below average, and left field didn’t get any easier to play in 2022.

Austin Hays and Anthony Santander weren’t losing their jobs in the corners unless the latter was traded. That sound you hear on the door is Kyle Stowers’ knuckles. And the Orioles didn’t need anyone else to serve as the designated hitter.

Rosters will be reduced to 26 players on May 2. More jobs will be lost.

Norfolk needs to keep playing Stowers, Robert Neustrom, Johnny Rizer and Yusniel Diaz – when he’s healthy – in an outfield rotation or however they manage it. Terrin Vavra started in center last night. Tyler Nevin started in right on Friday. The prospects need room to grow.

“DJ is just an outstanding guy and someone that has been around here since I’ve been here,” manager Brandon Hyde told reporters in Oakland. “Hard to see a guy you’ve been around a lot go. But I’m really hoping for the best with him. He’s a fantastic human being and I really wish him the best.”

Stewart could clear waivers, stay in the organization and return to the Orioles. A team could take a chance on a left-handed bat with power that also produces walks, a former first-round pick who might just need good health and a change of scenery.

He’s only 28 and he’s a hard worker.

He just ran out of time.

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